Smart technologies can help reduce the investment needs of new desalination and power plants by approximately $10 billion in the GCC by 2030, said an industry expert.
This can be achieved through a reduction in peak load demand, optimizing capacity, improving maintenance and reducing overall consumption patterns, added Christian von Tschirschky, Mena Power & Utilities leader for EY, a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services.
“The GCC region is among the world’s top water consumers per capita. Freshwater demand far outstrips supply in much of the GCC, requiring all countries to engage in energy-intensive desalination to meet daily needs,” he explained.
“Smart water grid development would generate more data about water distribution and usage, and help GCC utilities to learn how to conserve and secure future water supply. Through smart technology, substantial capital expenditure reduction can be created throughout the region.”
Similar to other regions around the world, smart water is lagging the development of smart power grids. However, most smart meter pilot projects in the GCC involve dual meters to measure water usage along with power – a development facilitated in countries like the UAE and Qatar where utilities are responsible for both sectors.
“This ownership structure is a unique opportunity for the region to co-optimize smart initiatives in water and power,” von Tschirschky noted.
Smart technologies to create new jobs
The region’s utilities can also gain a first-mover advantage in developing downstream, beyond-the-meter services, due to large volumes of data generated by smart technologies. In the US, utilities are seeing a 12-23 per cent return on investment from a range of add-on services, such as home energy management products.
These value add services may contribute an additional 25,000 qualified jobs over the upcoming years. This will require utilities to think critically about data security and whether their data management systems can cope.
The smart transformation could also open up new cross-border business. The completion in 2012 of a GCC-wide electricity grid is already allowing member states – such as Kuwait – to tap into electricity reserves from neighboring countries, although differential subsidies have prevented a market emerging so far.
“As countries start to invest in smart grids, they could look for opportunities over the border too, and even partner with their peers in the region to spread infrastructure costs and share commercial benefits,” concluded Jon Blackburn, director, Power and Utilities, EY.